Penn Manor Technology Director publishes ‘Open Schoolhouse’ book

The Penn Manor technology team virtually wrote the book on implementing open source software in education with its innovative 1:1 Student Laptop Program, the largest of its kind in Pennsylvania.

Now, the head of the school district’s tech team, Charlie Reisinger, has written a book explaining how other schools can do it, too.

“The Open Schooolhouse: Building a Technology Program to Transform Learning and Empower Students” was recently published online and in print. The 160-page book explains how Penn Manor was able to implement the program with 4,000 laptops that run exclusively on free, open source software.

The program has saved Penn Manor about $1 million on software licensing fees over the past 10 years and is believed to be the largest open source education program in Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the United States.

Open source refers to software developed by a community of technology experts who make it available to anyone to use for free. Users pay no licensing fees and are free to tweak the software to meet their unique needs.

Students at Penn Manor High School and Manor and Marticville Middle schools are using dozens of open source programs such as Blender, LibreOffice, Linux, Moodle and WordPress.

Reisinger said he decided to write “The Open Schoolhouse” after fielding a string of requests from his peers for information about Penn Manor’s program.

“I wanted to create a how-to guidebook for administrators, board members and educators to use as part of their own technology planning efforts,” he said.

The book traces the origins of open source implementation at Penn Manor back 15 years, when the district began using open source software for servers. The use of open source software later expanded to elementary schools laptops.

The book also explains how a team of student technology apprentices created computer programs to load and update software on more than 1,700 laptops. Those students, who run the 1:1 Help Desk at Penn Manor High School, are a major reason the program has succeeded, Reisinger said.

“I’m so proud of our Penn Manor students, teachers and the PM technology team for creating a unique learning community and technology program, and I’m thrilled to finally share our success stories and best practices with the world,” he said.

The paperback book is now available on Amazon Createspace, Kindle and Nook. And in the spirit of open source sharing, the PDF manuscript is available for download as well.